Global adventurer Adrian Flanagan dodges 50kt winds in North Pacific shipping lanes 10/7/06

After five days of battling storm fronts Adrian Flanagan is enjoying a welcome respite to the weather. Flanagan who set sail from Falmouth last October aboard his 11m stainless steel sloop Barrabas has now been at sea for more than eight months on his north-south record attempt.

According to the latest news from Barrabus this morning Flanagan is relieved the expected 50kt winds he’d been expecting did not materialize. Chatting about the last few days Flanagan said: “Fortunately the big winds did not materialise, the system fracturing and splitting just as it reached me.

“The trail of these fronts has left the wind blowing from the north-east, which is precisely the direction I need to be sailing, so for the moment I am not making any gain towards the Bering Straits.

“Over the next 36 hours the winds will come round to the south-west and allow me to continue my slow crawl towards the ice zone. I am already sheathed in two layers of thermals, gloves, woolly hat, and thick socks. I am at the threshold of substituting my light-weight sleeping bag for the heavy duty number. I guess if temperatures get seriously unpleasant, I can always put the sleeping bags one inside the other to create a ‘mega’ bag. Perhaps if I cut two holes for my feet and two for my arms, I could stay cocooned for the duration.

“My right shoulder is still sore but serviceable. This is an old injury harking back to my days of schoolboy rugby. It’s been surgically fixed, twice but the last repair was damaged two years ago while I was in France. I had never roller-bladed before, so my French friend, Christian Foures (an excellent all-round sportsman) decided I should be initiated. Down we trouped to the boardwalk along Deauville beach. The scene was classic. Two pretty French girls, me over-confident. The next thing I knew, my legs were in the air, my backside on the deck, my fall broken (just) by my right elbow, the force of which had tried to push my shoulder joint up through my skull. I felt the surgical fix tear, knew I had turned green. All thoughts of pretty French girls were quickly forgotten as waves of nausea swept past. I never had the damage looked at and I realised at the outset of the Alpha Global that this was a weakness with which I needed to be particularly cautious.

“Yesterday morning, I was woken at dawn with poor Barrabas taking a massive wave strike on her starboard side. Everything on the saloon table flew across the short airspace between it and me, including a tray full of odd screws, nuts, bolts, bits of wire, batteries and other assorted jumble.

“The sides of the tray are lower than the finials on the table, so I reckoned for it to become airborne would have required an angle of heel of at least 60 degrees. I immediately tore out of my sleeping bag and to my consternation saw that the chart table was wet though not awash as it had been during a similar but more severe knockdown rounding Cape Horn.

“I dried the surface, relieved to find that no equipment had been affected. I reproached myself (quite harshly and aloud) because whilst in Honolulu, I had organised a defence against just such an event but I hadn’t put it into place. I have now. The defence is a transparent, plastic shower curtain (Walmart $5.99). I screwed a series of hooks into the cabin headlining (ceiling) around the companionway hatch from which the shower curtain can then hang. The pattern of hooks creates folds in the curtain to catch and envelop any significant incoming volume of water which then slides harmlessly to the sole.

“One of the great innovations that Bernard De Castro, who built Barrabas, installed was a radar alarm. My radar is equipped with an internal alarm, but it is so weak as to be barely discernible unless I am actually sitting at the chart table.

“No, this other alarm is a bright red bell and hammer job of the type you might find in a public building. It is mounted to the side of the chart table next to the satellite phone, wired into the radar and ‘armed’ by its own, independent power source via a switch on the main panel.

“On the radar screen, I can set a ‘guard’ perimeter of up to 16 miles radius from the boat’s position, which of course is constantly moving and so then is the perimeter. Should a contact breech the perimeter the alarm is activated and bashes out a hell of a din. In this way, while crossing the north Pacific shipping lanes, I have managed to sleep for more extended periods than I would normally a) to ward off the cold and b) give my shoulder the best chance to heal.”